Headwaters Jam: Montana’s largest country confab

Published: June 11, 2008

Joe Diffie

Near Three Forks, where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers conjoin to form the Missouri, the Headwaters Country Jam is shaping up as the state’s largest country music confab.

According to Liberty Zuelke, one of the investors and organizers, the idea of launching an outdoor festival “is one many of us have been kicking around for years.”

“We looked around the state and didn't see a multi-day country music event,” she added. “We live in Montana and country and western music is in our heritage, our blood.” And the natural outdoor amphitheater known as The Bridge made sense for a venue. It’s already home to the state’s largest outdoor rock festival, Rockin’ the Rivers.

“It has a reputation as a premier outdoor venue and it holds an unlimited number of people,” Zuelke notes. “We like that it's out in the middle of nowhere, with no city lights or buildings, and great views of the Jefferson River Canyon and the Tobacco Root Mountains.”

“Besides,” she says, “the Bridge is a cow pasture for half the year. It makes sense to bring country music there.”

The lineup for the inaugural event includes Collin Raye (“I Think About You” and “That’s My Story”), Joe Diffie (“John Deere Garden”), Deana Carter (“Strawberry Wine” and “We Danced Anyway”), Mark Chesnutt, Sammy Kershaw, Little Texas, Highway 101 and special guest David Allan Coe (“Take This Job and Shove It”).

All told, this assembly of stars has garnered 23 number-one hits.

Festival-goers will also get an earful of music by Montana artists, including The Saddle Tramps, The Clintons, and Kostas with Montana Rose. In addition, Garrett Wilkin and the Parrotheads play Jimmy Buffett tunes and Dan Whyms with Rock Island Line pay tribute to the music of Johnny Cash.

Even her kids are psyched about the show. “My six- and three-year-old are really excited for Joe Diffie. His song ‘Bigger than the Beatles’ is one of their favorites,” she says. “He may have two additional back-up singers on that one.”

“With three days of non-stop country music, from artists on the radio to local and regional favorites, it's going to be a lot of great music,” Zuelke predicts.

Of course, Mother Nature is the one unpredictable element. “This area of Montana is know to have sudden blustery weather,” says Zuelke. “We tell people to come prepared. Bring cement blocks or sand bags for your tent to prevent it from blowing away and something warm to wear in the evenings.”

Organizers will have a few covered areas, the beer garden is shaded and the food vendor has a large, covered cookhouse.

“Weather is just something we can't predict, but it can also be part of the experience,” Zuelke says. “I bet we'll all remember that first year of Headwater's Country Jam when …”

The Bridge, with its gradual slope and remarkable acoustics, allows fans to bring a blanket or a lawnchair and choose their own seats. “You can be in the center of the crush of fans or you can make your spread away from the party and have an entirely individual experience,” says Zuelke. “It's just you, the music and Montana's big starry sky.”

Tickets are $50 per day or $120 for a three-day pass, with camping available. For more information, call 877-494-4841 or visit www.headwaterscountryjam.com.

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